Managing crises in the food chain

To mark World Veterinary Year, the fourth annual EU Veterinary Week was this year moved from its traditional autumn slot and held from May 16 to 22. Central to the week's events was a conference on ‘Crisis management in the food chain’, which took place in Brussels on May 19 and 20. ‘SINCE it is impossible to say that there will be no food crises in the future, our response capability must be maintained. This does not only concern managing the crisis itself, but also the way we communicate,’ said John Dalli, the European commissioner in charge of health and consumer policy, who addressed conference delegates by video. A series of crises over the past 15 to 20 years, ranging from BSE to dioxin contamination, had led the EU to overhaul its entire food safety system, he said. ‘We have learned from the past, and we're wiser and better equipped to deal with risks that might reach the food chain. There are around 200,000 vets working across Europe, many of whom contribute directly to the protection of over half a billion people through the food chain, from farm to fork. This year's events put a spotlight on their continuous performance.’ Some 300 representatives of EU bodies, governments, industry and veterinary organisations took part in the conference, which focused on the political, social and economic impact of crises in the food chain and the role of veterinarians. It examined specific case studies, such as the EU's response to the avian influenza outbreaks in 2005 and 2006, dioxin contamination of Irish pork in 2008 and the issue of German meat that proved to be unfit for human consumption in 2006. The conference also considered foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) preparedness in the UK 10 years after the epidemic of 2001. Veterinary Record 2011;168:578-579.

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